Japanese Verb Conjugation Te-Form

by Buddy Lindsey


Today we are going to go over te-form’s. This is VERY important to the Japanese language because it leads to so very much. If there is one type of verb conjugation to learn and learn extremely well it would be this. For that reason this might be a bit long for some, but I just want to be sure that people can really get hold of te-form conjugation for verbs.

First though I want to let you know if you don’t know how to tell the difference between u-verbs and ru-verbs by now you can fake te-forms, but you really really need to understand the differences to get things right. Te-forms are the base of a pyramid, and if you falter later the whole thing will fall down. Now that I am done going on and on about their importance, and the fact I really really want to be sure you are good at understanding u-verbs and ru-verbs; lets move on to te-forms.

Since they are easy this time lets start with irregular verbs.

irregular verbs

Without fail if the last to characters of a verb are する or くる it is an irregular verb. If it is する change the すto し and add て to get して. Likewise if the last 2 characters are くる change the く to き and add て to get きて. Irregular verbs like normal are easy.

-> して
-> きて
つれてく -> つれてきて
もってく -> もってきて

All we did was change the す to し and add て. For く all we did was change it to き and add て.


Now time for ru-verbs. These are also easy as long as you know they are ru-verbs and not u-verbs. For ru-verbs all you do is drop the る and add て. How about we look at some examples.

あけ -> あけ
おしえ -> おしえ
しめ -> しめ
つけ -> つけ
わすれ-> わすれ

See fairly easy for the ru-verbs not to much there just replacing a character. Just remember not all verbs ending in ru are ru-verbs.


Time for the hardest of them all, they biggest pain in the rear end, but as with everything easy once you understand, u-verbs. These are best if you just see quite a few examples and read what is going on so for each i’ll add several examples. Be sure to read the description at the top and look at the examples. It really is easy once you understand. Also one thing I found that helped me is to say the word outloud as it will help you to “hear” it. If you have hear enough Japanese things will sound right and wrong.

u-verbs with final う, つ, and る(remember some u-verbs end in る) Drop the last character and add って
-> あって
つか -> つかって
てつだ -> てつだって
-> たって
-> まって
-> もって
-> とって
すわ -> すわって
はい -> はいって

u-verbs with final む, ぶ, and ぬdrop the last character and add んで.

あそ-> あそんで
やす ->やすんで
-> すんで
-> しんで

u-verbs ending with く should drop く and add いて. With only one exception いく it is always いって.

-> きいて
-> かいて
-> はいて

u-verbs ending with ぐ drop the ぐ and add いで.

いそ -> いそいで

u-verbs ending in す drop the す and add して.

かえ -> かえして
-> けして

Please take notice of how much is involved in u-verbs and don’t be scared. When I first saw them I was like “WTF???” though after writing them down quite a bit and going through other verbs to figure them out I really understand them a lot better. My suggestion is practice them quite a bit until you won’t forget. It looks daunting, but after you get started you really start to see hmmm this doesn’t look so bad at all.

I hope this helps if I can help explain anything any better please let me know.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sarah May 19, 2009 at 3:15 pm


So I am teaching myself Japanese with the help of books and my Nintendo DS Japanese language program. I have just got to conjugation of verbs etc.
How confusing is it?!
What I dont get is what things are like, past negatives etc
Would you be able to help me?



2 DumbOtaku May 19, 2009 at 4:11 pm


I would be glad to help what specifically are you have trouble with? just give me what you are thinking and we will see about working it out so you can get it.


3 Sarah May 21, 2009 at 6:46 am

Hello again, thank you for your reply.

Well, in my books and stuff it says about certain verbs have certain endings and you have to look at that base table to find out what ending it needs.
Its soooo confusing!

Can you explain it a bit better, or have you any tips?

Cheers again xx


4 DumbOtaku May 21, 2009 at 7:25 am

Not sure what table you are refering too, but it sounds like you are talking about determining the difference between u-verbs, ru-verbs, and irregular verbs. Yeah ru-verbs can especially be a pain. However, give this post I made a read.


See what you can come up with on that. We can use that as a starting point of where to go to help you understand better. Maybe the best way to go about it if you don’t fully understand it after reading that is to see how well you can expain it back to me that way I can try to fill in gaps to help you.


5 emhe February 1, 2010 at 4:24 am

Hey Sarah

I'm beginning to learn Japanese too. Using the table is just one way to conjugate Japanese verbs. Personally, I find this unnecessarily confusing. Try learning using this page: http://japanese.about.com/library/weekly/aa031101… It made everything so much clearer for me! I was like, "Ohhhh… now THAT makes sense!"

Basically, there are only 2 tenses in Japanese: the present and the past. The present tense applies to the future as well. So, when you want to talk about something that happened before, use the past tense. When you want to talk about something that is happening or will happen, use the present tense.

Then there's the whole positive/negative thing. That's really, really simple as well. Take the English verb, "dance". The positive form would just be "dance"; the negative form would be "not dance".

And finally, there's formal or informal, and that just depends on the situation you're in/who you're talking to.

So, to recap, there are 8 forms of a verb + the "te" form: *continued…


6 emhe February 1, 2010 at 4:29 am

Positive, present, informal: (i.e. dance)
Positive, present, formal
Positive, past, informal: (i.e. danced)
Positive, past, formal
Negative, present, informal (i.e. not dancing)
Negative, present, formal
Negative, past, informal (i.e. didn't dance)
Negative, past, formal

As the link I gave you will explain, it's actually super easy to conjugate verbs.
Then, if you want to learn about the "te" form and where you use it (because the author of this article didn't tell you much about use), go here: http://japanese.about.com/od/grammarlessons/a/031

For the "te" form, just take the informal past tense of the verb, and replace the "ta" with "te" or the "da" with "de". It's that easy!


7 emhe February 1, 2010 at 4:30 am

Oh, and if you're confused about the verb groups (i.e. ~u, ~ru, irregular), go to this page: http://japanese.about.com/od/grammarlessons/a/031

Hope I helped. I'm not a native speaker by any stretch of the imagination but those pages helped me a lot in understanding Japanese verbs.

Good luck with learning Japanese!

P.S. Sorry about having to split the message up into parts. Apparently there's a length restriction.


8 DumbOtaku February 1, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Thank you for taking the time to leave such a detailed response. I just want to point out also that I have covered many of what you talked about in previous posts. If you will take a look at the related posts there are links to them.

Thanks again for taking the time to comment.


9 James February 15, 2010 at 7:07 pm


I think basically the information that DumbOtaku is presenting here is very similar to what there is on the link provided. Basically however instead of putting work into learning the learning the different ways of forming the te form of the verb, the link you provided is advocating first learning the informal past negative of a verb, and then after that the te form is quite simple. However, the work of memorization and relying upon a table is still there, just that it has been shifted to a different form of the verb. In the long run one way does not seem easier or harder than the other.


10 Marsha June 7, 2011 at 9:12 am

I hope this hasn’t been answered anywhere – I feel like it’s a simple question. But, what exactly does the verb mean when changed to its ‘te’ form?

歩く ー to walk
歩いて ー ??

Thank you!


11 Lily August 13, 2011 at 4:22 am

It depends on what you put behind it
歩るいて います – walking
歩るいて ください – please walk
歩るいて いただけませんか。- would you do me the favor of walking?
etc. …


12 Raphael July 28, 2011 at 8:23 am


Well, it is not so easy, because this is one place where Japanese differs from English and European languages. It is an Asian language, after all, and moreover, a Chinese-influenced language.

歩いて ー walk-ing

It is a form of a verb, but at the same time it is the form of a Japanese verb, not an English verb. It is “~ing” not in the sense of “is ~ing”, but in the sense of “~ing is good”, So, “walking” as in “walking is good for your health”, which would be the nominalized verb in English, rather than the continuous form.

“te”-form also indicates – grammatically speaking – that a verb is expected at the end of the sentence or sentential clause.

This is a good question, but nobody ever answers it, because they don’t approach it that way. They approach the meaning of specific use of the form, but not what the form suggests about a sentence.

The te-form of a verb is like a na-adjective, except that the na-adjective indicates a noun coming up, whereas the te-form indicates a noun is coming up. The -ku form of an adjective is the adverbial form of the adjective, it indicates an action done in a specifc manner. The te-form of a verb indicates that the two verbs are related to each other in an “~ish” kind of way. “aruite-iku” or “aruite-yuku” is “going a in a manner like walking”; Japanese is more “holistic”.

“aruite-iru” is used in a present continuous sense, but it means “(to) be walking”. That’s why it can be used as a “polite command”, just like it is used in English. ;) The “iru” is implied when it is used as a command.

Japanese is a far more regular language, having been isolated for so long, but it is hard if you don’t understand its regularities.


Have fun!



13 Anna December 8, 2011 at 11:28 pm

thanks for this wonderful source…
im taking a test tomorrow…
and i still dont know any of these…
after looking through your notes…
i think i’ll A’s this test…
im ashamed of myself…
i am half Japanese…



14 Buddy Lindsey December 8, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Hope you do good on your test tomorrow hope I was really able to help. Writing these blog posts was one of the ways I studied so I know the boat you are in. Don’t worry about being part Japanese and not being able to learn Japanese, or knowing it, I am part German and I know none of it, lol. Japanese is a much more interesting language to me.

Thanks for the kind words and good luck tomorrow.


15 Jasmin December 12, 2011 at 5:11 am

Hey. I’ve got a question about something I’ve been wondering for a while. I’m hoping you can answer it!

I know all the te-form, ta-form, plain-form, etc. But in a couple of instances I’ve seen an extra ‘ru’ added to the end of a te-form verb.

An example is: ‘mite’ being turned into ‘miteru’.

I’ve been curious as to what that changes the meaning to, and why it is used. I’ve studied a couple of gramatical structures such as adding a ‘ra’ to the end for ‘if you (verb)’, and how to say things such as ‘I intend to (verb)’, etc. However, this wasn’t mentioned among all the others.

As an extra! I know an easy way to remember te-form! It can be sung~ Haha

I Chi Ri – Tte
Mi Ni Bi – Nde
Ki – Ite
Gi – Ide
(This line was something along the lines of ‘Shi Shi – Te’, though I think I misheard and it is actually something like ‘E Shi – Te’ If it is ‘Shi Shi – Te’ then I assume the second ‘shi’ stands for single character verbs)
All the rest of the verbs, just drop the masu and add the te! ^_^

Well then! I’d appreciate it if you could answer my question! Thanks in advance!


16 kage January 16, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I guess I’m kind of late here . . .
But for those who have come across here and have a similar question, I’ll explain.

The reason you sometimes find a 「る」 after a て-form of a verb is here:
When you add 「~いる」 (used as a something progressive or continuous tense) at the end of a て-form of a verb, you get 「~ている/~でいる」. But, colloquially, the 「い」 is dropped, leaving behind as 「~てる/~でる」.
Either suffix is able to be conjugated as a ru-verb because the previous vowel was either /e/ or /i/, so you get (te-form for this) 「~ていて/~でいて」 or 「~てて/~でて」.
An example here would be with 「死ぬ」. 「死んでいる」 and 「死んでる」.


17 ケーシーハート May 30, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I think it’s cool that your teaching Japanese. Love the FLCL picture. Confusing with u- and ru-. I use G1 G2 irregular because there are exceptions. おきます、みます, etc(4got)…
In Japanese 2 and its interesting been taking it for four years and love it…easier than English. I’m actually tri-langual somewhat, taking Japanese II, Spanish I, and primary English.


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